Photo by NoelleWalker

Silence Speaks.

I clamped my hands together and tried to calm myself. The silence was overwhelming. I couldn’t take it. I needed to hear someone speak before I grew mad. It had been three months of people with sealed lips who refused to open their mouth. I saw a cup on a wooden table and threw it against the wall. I needed the noise. The cup cracked and fell apart into slivers. A shattering noise stretched throughout the room.

My name is Janette, and I lived in a kingdom where speaking was banned.

We were ruled by a king named Alexander II. Three months ago, our small kingdom tried to rebel against him.

We had secret meetings in basements of houses and we caused riots on the streets with plan, to overthrow the king. Eventually word got out. Alexander was furious. So in order to stop us, he banned speaking.

Somebody patted my shoulder. I turned around to see my father standing there. I closed my eyes and forced myself to calm down before I raised my eyebrows in question. He jerked his head toward the empty cabinets and I understood immediately. We needed food. I nodded, put some money in the inside pocket of my cloak and made my way toward the market.

When I arrived, I glanced at all the vendors. There were people selling meat, vegetables, clothing, and much more. I watched as people made their way quietly around. There were guards everywhere, ready to kill or arrest anyone who dared to speak.

I made my way toward the dairy cart. As I looked at the cheeses a loud bang erupted throughout the marketplace. People cringed, but I grasped onto the last remaining sound with my mind.

I glanced at where the sound came from. A barrel was split open and laying on the ground, its contents spilling out. There was a man standing there.

His hair was gray and he had on droopy brown clothes. I could see the desperation in his eyes. He needed someone to speak. He needed the nourishment that only words could give. I looked around me. Everyone remained quiet, even though they could see the same thing I did. They were all cowards. I guess that included me, too.

“Somebody help him! Somebody say something!” my mind screamed.

But nobody did anything; they all just stood there. As I studied his face, his thinned lips parted.

“Everyone–“ he had started to say, but his words were cut short as a guard mugged his mouth and pushed him down to the ground.

I paused and tried to imagine what he was going to have said, but nothing came to mind. One person in the throng of hundreds had dared to say something.

That one word echoed in my mind.


Even as they dragged him away, I clung to it.

That night, as I lay in my bed, I thought about what it would be like to just start talking, to just let the words gush out of my mouth without worrying about any consequences. I wondered what it would be like to stand up against the king and the guards. I decided later that night that I would say a word.

The next day, after signaling to my father that I was going for a walk, I walked along the stream that ran next to my house. The morning birds chirped freely. I envied them.

I sat down in the grass and the dew soaked through my clothing. I looked around to make sure no one was around.

Then I opened my lips and uttered a word I hadn’t dared since my mother died a few years ago.

Love,” I breathed, the word rolling off my tongue. A rush of adrenaline pumped through me.

“Love,” I said even louder. I stood up as a smile appeared on my face. There was no one around. What could stop me?

“Love!” I yelled, my voice reaching a threatening loudness. I laughed and spun around, my arms reaching out toward the sun.

Suddenly fingernails dug into my elbow. My heart stopped, and the words disappeared down my throat. I turned to see a boy my age standing there.

Dark brown hair hung in his eyes. He brought a finger to his lips.

“Listen to me carefully.”

He breathed the words so quietly I thought it was my imagination.

“The king is going to make a speech in our village in about two months. A few others and I are planning a rebellion. We want you to join us. We’ve been watching you the past couple weeks. We’ve seen the way you try to stop yourself from saying something about this nonsense, and what you pulled off just now was absolutely stupid.”

I gulped.

“But it was amazing. That was the thing we needed you to show us, that you are fully capable of doing what we need you to do.”

He smiled and held out his hand.

“Now what do you say? Are you with us?” he asked.

I took his hand in confirmation.

Two months later, we were ready. The king was going to make his speech in our town square that day. As we stood among the group of townsfolk, Timothy, the boy who found me talking to myself, pulled me behind a vacant cart.

“I’m going to remind you of the plan,” he started to say. I rolled my eyes and opened my mouth to protest.

“I already know the plan. I’ve memorized it,” I said. It felt so different to be using words in public. It felt dangerous, knowing that anybody could catch me at any moment. But it also made me feel alive.

“I know, but I’m going to tell you anyway,” he said quietly. “The king is going to have guards surrounding him on either side of the platform, but the guards are on our side, so they’re going to let you through onto the stage that he’ll be standing on. The king won’t have any weapons on him because the guards are supposed to hold it for him. I’ll give you the signal: I’ll lift up my right index finger to my left elbow. Then you’ll walk by the guards and yell the speech we’ve given you. Hopefully you’ll convince the king that what he’s doing is wrong. If that doesn’t work, you’ll talk to the villagers and talk about rebellion.”

I nodded. He made it sound so simple.

“Any questions?” he asked.

“I love you.” The words blurted out before I could stop them. My face burned a shade of red, and I instantly regretted saying the words.

Timothy smiled, his eyes crinkling at the corners.

“That’s not necessarily a question, but–“ he started to say.

“Who’s there?” a voice barked out. We both instantly froze. It was one of the king’s guards. The guards, as well as the king, were allowed to speak.

I released a sigh of relief and looked at Timothy. After all, the guards were part of the plan; they were supposed to let us speak freely.

As I looked at Timothy’s eyes, I saw a reflection of panic and fear, and I instantly knew why.

This wasn’t one of the guards who were supposed to be on duty.

My heart made its way to my throat, beating fast.

The guard studied us. Then a crooked smile rose to his lips.

“I knew I heard a voice,” the guard snarled.

A voice.

That meant he only heard one of us.

His gaze drifted from me to Timothy.

“You. Come with me.” the guard hissed, a finger pointing at the boy I loved.

No. This couldn’t be happening. I needed him.

I opened my mouth, ready to cry out, but then Timothy’s finger on my lips stopped me. I looked at him, tears in my eyes.

“I love you, too,” he whispered.

The look in his eyes also told me that I needed to go through with the plan. With or without him. Suddenly, the guard pulled back his fist and slammed it into Timothy’s face. He fainted and fell to the ground.

A sob threatened to escape my lips, but I stopped it just in time. I wasn’t going to let his words be for nothing.

I forced myself calm down and focused on my heartbeat as the guard threw Timothy over his shoulder and left.

I slipped away from the back of the vendor’s cart and intermixed with the crowd of people waiting for the king’s speech. Anger raced through me. The king was just a man, and somehow he made a whole village obey him. Well not anymore.

I watched as the king made his way to the platform, when a thought went through me. If Timothy wasn’t here, who would give me the signal?

I already knew the answer to that.

No one.

I would have to do this myself.

I slipped through the mass of people to get closer to the guards next to the platform. The king’s voice echoed throughout or town square.

“I am happy to report that the village, as well as the kingdom, is in top condition. It’s been better than ever before. Thanks to the no speaking law, there hasn’t been any outbreak of rebellion for weeks.”  Anger coursed through me. Who gave him power? Who would let him take our words away from us?

“I know what most of you are thinking. And the answer is no. I am not going to lift up the no speaking law,” he announced. I was now in front of the guards next to the platform. I studied the crowd. Pure fury was unleashed on all of their faces.


I walked right by the guards and onto the platform. The king hadn’t noticed, so he continued with his speech.

“Now don’t be angry, maybe in a few years–“

“Stop,” I interrupted. My voice echoed. The king froze.

“Who let her up here? Guards! Arrest her immediately!” he bellowed. The guards just stood there.

“Guards!” he screamed.

A timid smile made its way onto my lips. This was it.

I decided against the first step, trying to convince the king, and went right to the second. The king would have never listened to me.

I looked at all the townsfolk. They stared at me expectantly.

“Hello.” I nodded at them, waiting for them to reply. No one did. I glanced around, hoping to see a familiar face. Then I saw it, my father. He gave me a small smile. I took a deep breath and let out my speech.

“I’m here to tell you that no one can take away your words unless you let them. Not me, not the guards, not even the king. Your words make you. Your words are your greatest power. They’re even mightier than any of the guard’s weapons or the king’s commands! Words give you power! Words give you strength! You don’t need me to tell you that. Deep down inside, you already know. Don’t let the king take that power away from you. Don’t stand in fear, waiting for someone else to do or say something. Nothing is going to change if you stay quiet.”

I paused and looked around. Nobody said anything. Then I saw the guard, the one that had taken away Timothy, coming straight for me. I gulped. This had to happen now. The townspeople needed to say something.

“Well?” I asked, my gaze sweeping the crowd, “Say something!” I had expected the crowd to start roaring or to start talking immediately. But no one did. Not even the guards.

“Since when has this world come to a point where people are too scared to speak?” I asked, just as the guard grabbed my arm.

Silence screamed around me. No one made a move to help.

“Let go of her,” a voice erupted. I glanced up to see my father step forward. I smiled.

The guard loosened his grip a smidge.

“She’s right. We all know it,” a stranger said. I released a breath.

“I agree! What gives the king the right to take away our words?” someone yelled.

Suddenly voices intermingled, and they started cheering. They were cheering for me. The guard let go of my arm once he realized what was happening.

“Away with the king!” some citizens yelled. Just then, the guards stepped forward to take the king away.

“No! You can’t do this to me! I’m the king!” Alexander yelled.

“Not anymore,” I said, smugness in my voice. A couple of the other guards came and took him, as well as the guard that had grabbed my arm.

As Alexander was escorted away, I knew we were now in control of ourselves.

It was over; we were not going to let the king rule us anymore. I was going to get Timothy back and we were all going to be free. No one can rule us; we rule ourselves.